Lenkor Energy: Textbook application of the (common law of) recognition and assessment of ordre public. (Re: Dubai judgment).

Update 4 June 2020 decision upheld on appeal, [2020] EWHC 1432 (QB).

In [2020] EWHC 75 (QB) Lenkor Energy Trading v Irfan Iqbal Puri, Davison M rejected the ordre public arguments made by claimant against recognition of a money judgment of the Dubai First Instance Court.

Reflecting global understanding of ordre public, it is the judgment and not the underlying transaction upon which the judgment is based which must offend (here: English) public policy. That English law would or might have arrived at a different conclusion is not the point (Walker J in Omnium De Traitement Et De Valorisation v Hilmarton [1999] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 222).

The ordre public arguments made, were (1) illegality, (2) impermissible piercing of the corporate veil and (3) penalty.

Re (1), the argument is that the underlying transaction is illegal. Master Davison acknowledged there are circumstances where an English court might enquire into the underlying transactions which gave rise to the judgment. However such court must do so with extreme caution and in the case at issue, defendant’s familiarity with Dubai and its laws argued against much intervention by the English courts.

On (2), the veil issue, submission was that defendant was being made personally liable for the debts of IPC Dubai, which was the relevant party (as guarantor) to the Tripartite Agreement and the holder of the account upon which the cheques were drawn. The cheques had not been presented or had been presented out of time – or there was at least an issue about that. The combination of these matters was, it was suggested, to impose an exorbitant liability on Mr Puri for sums which he had not agreed to guarantee – in contravention of established principles of English law.

Here, too, Davison M emphasised defendant’s familiarity with Dubai law. The case against Mr Puri in Dubai was resolved according to the rules which the laws of Dubai apply to Dubai companies and to individuals who write cheques on Dubai accounts. Dubai law may be different than English law on this point, but not repugnantly so.

Finally on (3) the sums in particular the interest charged were suggested to be exorbitant hence a form of unenforceable punitive damages. However, 9% interest is only 1% higher than the judgment debt rate in England and only ¼% higher than the current rate under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. (At 31) ‘In the light of this, to characterise the interest rate of 9% as amounting to a penalty is unrealistic.’

Geert.